Thursday, 25 December 2014

If you put your 'ghar' in order, there is no need for 'wapsi'

Let me be quite categorical right at the beginning that I denounce all types of religious conversions.  Whether it is Hindu to Christian, Hindu to Muslim, Christian to Muslim, Hindu to Buddhism, or, for that matter, the recent spate of 'reconversion' ceremonies, they are all unacceptable.  When we know that all religions at their core teach the same message, and all are but different paths to the same God, then all conversions end up being meaningless activities.

I see the recent 'ghar wapsi' programs as a response to the centuries of illegitimate proselytizing activities carried out by the followers of the two Abrahamic religions - by coercions, inducements and advertisements of their religions.  By no means are these 'ghar wapsi' programs a justifiable reaction to evangelisation.  They are a desperate measure to counter the more organised and well-funded proselytizing activities, and come many years too late.  If only the successive governments since Independence had paid attention to the covert activities carried out in religious, educational, medical and outreach establishments, and monitored their funding sources, and curbed all types of conversions, then the recent events would not have occurred.

It is the festering of the situation and the free hand allowed to religious minority groups to act covertly while maintaining a façade of social service, that has resulted in this situation.  Surely, there is unlikely to be any other country in the world where missionaries have been given - since the days of the colonial occupation by the Dutch, French, Portuguese and the British - and are still given - in the name of political correctness and minority appeasement - all the freedom in the world to influence gullible people into leaving the faith of the majority of the population of the country.

Recently, a Christian guest columnist has written an article in the Outlook magazine about the increase in the religious activities and reconversion programs that have occurred since the BJP government came to power.  He pretty much denied conversion activities undertaken by Christian organisations because, as he says, not a single Christian has been found guilty of conversion since five decades.  Well, how would they be found guilty, if governments turn a blind eye to their activities and gullible people continue to believe in the divinity of their missionary activities?

Further, he quotes the example of Ashoka who sent his own kith and kin to spread Buddhism outside India, and from more recent times, Mata Amritanandamayi and Satya Sai Baba of Puttaparthi, who he says, receive their money from rich patrons abroad.  Aside from the fact that neither of these religious leaders have ever undertaken any evangelical activities, let us also look at few of the messages given by them to their followers (emphasis added):

Mata Amritanandamayi
‘Our lives should be of some benefit to the world. We should sincerely love and console at least one life, for at least a moment, without any expectations.' 

Satya Sai Baba
'I have come to light the lamp of Love in your hearts, to see that it shines day by day with added luster. I have not come on behalf of any exclusive religion. I have not come on a mission of publicity for a sect or creed or cause, nor have I come to collect followers for a doctrine. I have no plan to attract disciples or devotees into my fold or any fold. I have come to tell you of this unitary faith, this spiritual principle, this path of Love, this virtue of Love, this duty of Love, this obligation of Love.' 

He then goes on to quote the example of ISKCON, which seeks followers in the West through the 'Hare Krishna' movement.  True, ISKCON, rather narrowly focuses on one godhead, Krishna, but even this organisation has the following message on its website (emphasis added):

Krishna is eternal, all-knowing, omnipresent, all-powerful, and all-attractive. He is the seed-giving father of all living beings, and He is the sustaining energy of the entire cosmic creation. He is the same God as The Father Allah, Buddha and Jehovah.’

Let us now consider what the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), a Christian organisation based in the US, which funds at least two missionary health organisations in India, has as its mission statement:

'As a convention of churches, our missional vision is to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations.'

Also consider this excerpt from a story from the International Mission Board (SBC) website:

'Despite the challenges, the number of churches and believers is growing in Bangalore. [The missionary] works to train and disciple nationals, teaching them to plant churches and spread the Gospel through storytelling. His wife works with the people of the slums, mainly widows, women and children, to share the Good News through Bible study groups and showing the JESUS film.'

'Pray for the lost of Bangalore. Ask that the strongholds of Hinduism and Islam will be broken so more can hear the Gospel message. Pray that existing churches will have a renewed vision and burden for evangelism and the lost in their city. Ask that God will raise up a new generation of leaders and believers for the churches of Bangalore.'

Which of the above philosophies is mature, all-inclusive and universal in nature? Which of them is bigoted, divisive and fundamental in nature? You decide.

The 'ghar wapsi' and reconversion programs launched by the VHP are wrong. They are a flawed response to the conversion problem; they are like tackling a problem with another problem. Besides, they go against the very core tenet of Sanatana Dharma, which considers every soul to be an expression of the universal God, and every faith to be a legitimate search for the same One God. I have written about this in another article recently. 

Instead, if we are really serious about curbing conversions and religious exploitation, we should be focusing on what is actually needed: uplifting the status of Dalits, improving healthcare, reducing poverty, spreading the message of oneness, monitoring the activities and funding sources of evangelical organisations, and bringing about laws which require prospective converts to prove that they are changing their faith out of their own will and without influence of any kind.

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